Kristen Tozer, Howell Middle School North, 6th Grade Language Arts.
Growing up I couldn’t really find my niche and my talent in anything. I always tried to find what that was, what made me glow, but I couldn’t find it. I didn’t always know I wanted to be a teacher. Everybody else knew I would be good at it, though. My mom was a teacher, my cousins were teachers. But I wasn’t sure if it was for me. It was my fears that held me back. I was debilitated by fear most of my life. I battled really badly with anxiety. I had a lot of negative self-talk, and always had the feeling like I was not going anywhere in life.
I think a lot of it was the way I was wired, and was hereditary. I know my dad struggled with anxiety. He passed away when I was 14. I didn’t find out until later in life he struggled with anxiety too. For the longest time, I didn’t know how to deal with anxiety, and I dealt with it in unhealthy ways. Nothing was working. But I have learned to work through it, and it has helped me be the teacher I am.
I have seen how my own fears and anxieties growing up has helped me as a teacher, because when I see a student that’s struggling, or nervous, or holding back, I can talk to them, and help them find out what they are good at, and I nourish that.
When I see girls in particular being quiet and reserved, I identify a lot with them. I was a lot the same way. There was this one girl who was very quiet, and I would spend the time getting to know her, and help her develop her passions, and I would connect her with other girls that shared the same interests as her so she would feel more comfortable in class. I eventually helped mentor her into a leadership role in class, and she thrived in it.
Overall I want the kids to know everything is going to be ok. I tell them that life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react to it. The kids go through real problems. Maybe to some people they may seem minuscule, you know, arguments with friends or something like that, but to them that is important. And some of them deal with things at home that we know nothing about. One kid this year had cancer. Another was homeless, staying with extended family. They are 12 years old and are doing the best they can.
I love what I do. I know in my heart I am going to work every day making a difference in people’s lives, I cannot help but have a smile on my face. I feel like now I am the person God intended for me to be. I discovered myself for the first time. I can put my head on the pillow at the end of the night and know I am fulfilling my purpose in life teaching these kids.